Rita Braga – Time Warp Blues: Album Review

Bold, quirky and hilarious – Portuguese songstress Rita Braga challenges and entertains on her third album.

Release Date:  20th November 2020

Label: Self Release

Formats: Limited vinyl release / CD / DL

I’ll start by explaining that Rita Braga is a Portuguese songwriter whose style is described as ‘experimental’. She is multilingual and a multi-instrumentalist; on this album she plays her vintage keyboard, ukulele and banjolele and also programmes the drum machine rhythms and songs are sung in English, Portuguese, Finnish and Japanese.  But none of that gives any indication of what to expect from this highly quirky, marvelously varied and ominously dystopian collection of music.

There are a wealth of influences and musical styles lurking within the twelve titles that comprise Time Warp Blues.  For influences, I’ve been able to pick out hints of Kate Bush, Katy Perry, Björk, Earl and even slight tastes of Sparks, Devo and The Incredible String Band. As for the musical styles, there are traces of Balkan folk, post-punk electronica and significant servings of 20s/30s jazz.  And all that adds up to quite a rich combination.  Humour is never far below the surface and the album is challenging and highly entertaining in almost equal measures.

Most of the songs are played by Rita on her own – her preferred mode of live performance – but she is joined by Galina Juritz who plays a wonderfully jazzy/bluesy violin solo on Tremble Like A Ghost (the album’s lead single and one of its strongest tracks) and Andrea Rocca who adds bass and guitar on several songs.

The songs are mainly Rita’s own compositions, the only exceptions being Kuningaskobra (sung in a language I think I detected to be Finnish) which is written by Teddy Powell and Sauvo Puhtila, the excellent You Used To Be Stevie Wonder (great lyrics!) by Peter Ivers and Pussycat (Japanese, I am reliably informed) by Miharu Koshi. 

Whatever the source and whatever the language, the songs are all equally engaging and intriguing, with the standouts probably the aforementioned Tremble Like A Ghost and You Used To Be Stevie Wonder, Electroplasma (a slice of 1030s electronica if you can imagine such a concept…) and the hilarious Sardine, in which Rita dreams that her partner has turned into said fish, so she grills him and serves him up with a slice of lime, all against a backing of simply plucked ukulele.   

But this is an album on which, to be fair, every track is a standout, and elsewhere, Branca de Neve (Snow White) is broody and ghostly, Amore is another highly humourous number in which the story of a human/cyber hybrid is told in a breathy vocal over a ukulele and drum machine backing while Revelation alternates a simple banjolele strum with a heavy keyboard riff to stunningly successful effect.

Time Warp Blues was recorded and mixed at Baby Microbe Studio in Clapham, London, and was produced by Andrea Rocca and Rita Braga.  I won’t pretend that this an album that will appeal to everyone, but those with a taste for the quirky, the left-field or the humourously unusual will love it!

Watch the official video of Tremble Like A Ghost from the album here:

Rita Braga online:   Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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